Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-WA) and Richard Hanna (R-NY) introduced new legislation today aiming to reduce the cost of college textbooks through digital technology. The “Electronic Books Opening Opportunity for Knowledge (E-BOOK) Act” would fund pilot programs at colleges and universities to expand student access to digital course materials through the use of tablets, laptops, and other mobile devices.
The bill explicitly allows “freely available open educational resources” as one type of digital course material that can be used by pilot institutions. The bill provides a strong definition of open educational resources (OER):
The term ‘open educational resources’ means digital course materials that are made freely available online to the public with a permanent copyright license granting advance permission for the public to access, distribute, adapt, and otherwise use the work with appropriate attribution to the authors as set forth in the materials.
The bill also allows grant funding to be used for purchasing traditional digital content, which is typically sold on a subscription basis.
OER is the most effective model to unlock the full potential of digital technology to expand access, reduce costs, and meet the needs of teachers and learners. OER have proven to substantially reduce costs while maintaining or improving student learning outcomes. OER also are the most efficient use of taxpayer funds because once created, OER can be used by students anywhere, anytime without expiration dates, so the potential return on investment is enormous.
SPARC believes that effective public policies that aim to reduce the cost of textbooks will go beyond allowing OER to actually prioritize and invest in OER. For this reason, SPARC has endorsed – and continues to enthusiastically support – the Affordable College Textbook Act, which would create pilot programs at colleges and universities to expand the creation, use and improvement of OER to reduce textbook costs for students.